In the face of rising energy prices and the cost of living crisis, people are looking for every possible way to save money when heating their home. One of the key questions that arises through this search is 'What is the most efficient way of heating?', here we go somewhat towards answering that question by debating the merits of underfloor heating vs the more traditional radiator.
In the battle of underfloor heating or radiators, there are further considerations to bear in mind, including ease of installation and design practicalities. Plus, it’s important to understand that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to heating your home. Many factors will impact the efficiency of your heating, and therefore cost effectiveness of your solution; such as the quality of home insulation, window glazing, and boiler efficiency. In this blog, we try and analyse each system in isolation.
Installing a new radiator is straightforward, as it simply needs to be fitted to the wall. If you’re switching existing units for like-for-like replacements, the job shouldn’t take a professional more than a couple of hours. Plus, once all the connections are secure, your new radiator is ready to go.
If you’re fitting completely different units (e.g. a vertical unit instead of conventional horizontal design), extra thought may be required in terms of planning the room layout around the position of your radiator and to ensure it’s in the best spot to warm the space.
Fitting underfloor heating can be trickier, depending on the scenario. In a new build, installing underfloor heating is relatively straightforward, as it can be added before the final flooring or screed level goes in.
Electric UFH systems are easier to install than water-based setups – a competent DIYer could probably do it in some scenarios. With a water-based setup, you’ll need to allow enough space for the pipework to be installed without too great a height build-up. Various slim, low-profile hydronic systems are available for retrofit scenarios.
However, the sub floor will still need to be adequately prepared. In some cases, you might be waiting weeks for the screed layer to dry out before you can lay the floor finish over the top. At that point, the underfloor heating should only be turned on gradually and the temperature increased incrementally so that the flooring above can acclimatise. Additionally, in almost all cases underfloor heating drawings must be comissioned before installation so that the installer has a basis to work from.
When comparing the efficiency of radiators to underfloor heating, there’s a couple of key factors to note. One is that underfloor heating works at a lower flow temperature (around 35°C) than radiators (70°C -90°C). 'This means that underfloor heating systems can run from an existing boiler and you will make savings due to the low temperature of water required,' says Tom Edmunds from Wunda.
Studies have shown that underfloor heating can be up to 40% more efficient in heating a home then radiators. This is mainly down to the fact that the floor holds on to heat far better than the air and provides a uniform spread of heat, rather than localised areas near a radiator. It is also worth adding that radiators are often positioned under windows, so much of the heat output by the radiator is lost almost immediately to the atmosphere.
Robust and reliable, a radiator should provide a service life of at least eight to 10 years. High-quality, well-maintained units might not even need to be replaced for 15+ years. However, frequent use will result in wear and tear, and over time your radiator might fail to perform to its most efficient level. Flushing your system regularly can help prevent build-up of substances like rust.
The pipework for a water-based underfloor heating system should last at least 50 years. Providing the setup is well-maintained and undergoes regular professional servicing to ensure everything is in order.